New Jersey Delegates to the 2012 LWVUS Convention
by Nicole Forbes
Attending the 50th National Convention last month in Washington DC was an amazing experience. I could not have been more impressed by the dedication and efforts of the 800 people there, women and men of all ages and backgrounds.
It opened my eyes to the many ways that the League protects our democracy by standing up to attempts to derail it, such as restricting the right to vote, denying access to eligible voters, and the use of excessive money from undisclosed sources to misinform voters.
I learned of countless examples of how the League at all levels is fighting voter ID laws and registration restrictions today all across the country. Major efforts were taking place in Florida to purge voter rolls without adequate attempts to verify that the individuals were no longer eligible, and laws were being made to severely restrict those of us who go out into the community to register voters. Perhaps you saw the Florida League president interviewed on TV programs last month such as the Daily Show and CNN. In Arizona, the League was successfully challenging proof of citizenship requirements for registration. Voter photo ID laws are such a huge threat around the country this year that several state and local Leagues, including the League next door in Pennsylvania, are actively working against these requirements, which tend to exclude the young, the elderly, and newly registered from voting.
Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the many excellent speakers who gave many specific examples of how the Department of Justice has fought voter suppression actions and relies on the help of the League to bring such instances to light and to advocate of the behalf of those being harmed. I encourage you to view his comments and those of the other main speakers which are available on the League of Women Voters of the United States website. The text of the speech is on the Department of Justice website. Our mutual goal is to insure integrity, independence, and transparency in the election process. Quoting Attorney General Holder, “the League’s mission has never been more important.” The League’s role in defending the rights of all citizens to participate in democracy was further reinforced and praised by the panelists in a discussion on “The Parties vs the People” consisting of Eleanor Clift (predicts continued stalemate), Trevor Potter (fundamental fallacies in the Citizens United decision), and Mickey Edwards (incentives are not to be civil, compromise).
Another speaker, Kathleen Hall Jamieson from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, urged us to help remediate the damage by the Citizens United decision. Go to Flackcheck.org to learn about how we can hold broadcast stations accountable by insisting on the accuracy of ads funded by super PACs. The media does not have to air deceptive ads, and we can urge stations to “Stand by Your Ad,” if we are vigilant about this threat and take action. The website gives information on the patterns underlying deceptive ads and what we can do to discourage them. Meanwhile, the League is actively lobbying for passage of the Disclose Act, including sending delegates and the lobby corps to Capitol Hill on the last day of the convention.
We also viewed a new film, Patriocracy, patriocracymovie.com, about ways to move beyond polarization and restore civility to the country. This may be a good film to show at a LWV-Princeton Area meeting. The pollster John Zogby gave an interesting and sometimes humorous view of the status of the presidential campaigns at the banquet.
The meat of the convention was the discussion and debate in the hours of plenary sessions of what our program should be for the next two years. After extensive discussion and debate, the delegation voted in favor of the board-recommended budget and program for the next two years, including an increase to the per member payment (PMP) of $1. Program recommendations included retaining all current positions in the areas of Representative Government, International Relations, Natural Resources, and Social Policy. LWVUS also believes that alternatives to imprisonment should be explored and utilized, taking into consideration the circumstances and nature of the crime. LWVUS opposes mandatory sentencing for drug offenses.
In addition, several motions were made by various Leagues to take on other subjects for advocacy and/or study. Some of these Leagues have put extensive effort and study into these areas and caucuses were held for people interested in learning more about them outside of the plenary sessions, i.e., early mornings and late evenings. The two non-recommended programs that passed were motions
The work of the board and professional staff was very impressive. Many of their reports are on the website; I especially recommend reading the advocacy report. They are also doing a lot to help rebuild the membership and effectiveness of the state and local Leagues. There were workshops on how to get our message out using social networking, how to be more effective in attracting members and donors, and how to be effective in our advocacy. One program, “Growing the League,” for developing leadership within the League through a mentoring program, was warmly embraced by the attendees, who donated more than double the goal for their fundraiser at the convention.
On a personal level, it was wonderful to become acquainted with other New Jersey delegates and our executive director. I had not known that one of our New Jersey members was once national League president, and that we have members who serve as United Nations observers for the League.
In closing, it is difficult to condense all that I took away from the four jam-packed days into a brief report, so please take time to look at the websites I mentioned for more details on the areas that interested you. The next convention is in 2014 in Dallas, and as grateful as I am for this experience, I truly hope you can go if you have never been to one.
Also, be assured that in addition to the very dedicated work of our local volunteers on voter education and registration, your dues through the PMP portion is doing a great deal to support the critically needed work of the League in protecting our democracy. This means you are making an invaluable contribution to the work of the League no matter how much time you are personally able to devote to the League’s activities at any particular stage in your life.